Some great movies just don’t get their due when it comes to ticket sales and box office numbers.
Whether as a result of bad timing, poor marketing, lack of star power, problems with distribution, or just plain bad luck… many awesome movies never quite got the love they deserve.
Here are some of the best crime movies that bombed at the box office and flew under the radar. Don’t miss out just because the box office stats were low!
1. The Local
The Local is a low-budget but relentlessly brutal tale.
It follows its heroine addict protagonist Noname (played by writer/director Dan Eberle) as he tries to stay clean while barely navigating and surviving his daily existence as a bottom-rung drug runner for a group of unhinged Iraqi war veterans.
Noname is offered $5,000 to rescue the estranged, heroin-addicted daughter of a desperate rich man from the drug apartment of his ex-military bosses.
Although not without its flaws, a staunch sincerity bleeds through the compromising blemishes in this tale of redemption. It more than makes up for the legitimate criticisms it’s gotten.
The low budget look-and-feel contributes to the feeling of authenticity around the subject matter, and actually adds to the experience rather than detracting from it.
2. Killing Zoe
Described by Roger Ebert as “Generation X’s first bank caper movie,” the critically-panned Killing Zoe (which has a 36% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes) is a non-stop nihilistic roller coaster of sex, drugs, violence, and mayhem set to 90s techno.
Eric Stoltz stars as Zed, a safecracker brought to Paris by the promise of a lucrative bank job to be pulled off on Bastille Day by an eclectic gang of criminals hailing from Europe.
Most importantly, that gang is led by Zed’s French childhood friend whom he hasn’t seen in 11 years.
The plan slowly reveals itself to be ill-conceived and, at worst, suicidal. It all ends in a disastrous bloodbath with the heist crew’s transformation as they fight a losing battle—perfectly in line with the movie’s themes touching on Viking culture and motifs.
Some might say that Killing Zoe sits sour due to it being “senselessly violent and mean-spirited” (per Rotten Tomatoes), and I get it. Exploitation films aren’t for everyone. They’re meant to be outrageous in all of the wrong ways, after all.
Malcolm McDowell is at it again playing a terrifying off-his-rocker character—this time a London gangster.
This is the story of a man, credited simply as Gangster, retelling his life of violent ambition and betrayal that bought him his current position as a bitter and resentful gang boss, who leads a meaningless existence trapped in materialism.
Gangster No. 1 is a unique contribution to the British gangster film genre. It’s more of a character study than a conventional crime drama—a study of corruption and emptiness, of envy and ambition and power, as if it were a traditional Italian gangster film.
Gangster No. 1 is executed masterfully in almost every aspect and easily sits among the greats of the genre.
Tom Hardy gives a menacingly intense performance as Michael Peterson (aka Charles Bronson) in this Kubrickian-styled character study of “Britain’s most violent inmate.”
Garnering a host of comparisons to A Clockwork Orange, Bronson has been criticized as being over-stylized, shallow, and bereft of meaning while focusing on a character with no redeeming qualities and no consequential arc.
These criticisms are all valid, but fail to recognize that these supposed flaws are the exact intention of the movie.
It’s a story told by Peterson about how he views his life, and everything is shown through the lens of his warped psychology. The man himself is shallow and insignificant, so of course his quasi-fantastical retelling of his life is as well.
There is no character arc because this is an animalic character absent any semblance of civilization. He’s a man devoid of substance and driven purely by reasonless fury and violence.
Stylish, fun, and deeply disturbing, this 2002 drug-fueled neo-noir movie starring Val Kilmer is one that never lets off the gas.
It centers on a Los Angeles speed freak named Danny Parker who’s also a fedora-wearing jazz trumpet player. But who is he, really? The movie eventually lets you in on the truth—and the journey there is wild and troubling.
Buried under a deluge of other high-profile movie releases at the time, The Salton Sea went unnoticed by the public even if critics seemed to like it pretty well.
This is as grimy as Los Angeles gets, and it’s a must-see for fans of movies centered on seedy underworlds. The Salton Sea’s underworld is one of the seediest.
More Movies That Will Thrill You
These underrated crime movies will deliver thrills, but they aren’t the only ones that will. There are so many other gripping films that don’t fall short on style or substance. Check out our favorite recommendations: